In Luxembourg, meetings are held in order to develop ideas or projects as well as to share information. They are held according to a certain international standard. Depending on the corporate culture, the framework is more or less formal. As a rule, written invitations to the meeting are sent in good time, and at larger meetings the date is often confirmed shortly before the meeting. If possible, try and find out in advance who will be attending the meeting, which languages and nationalities will dominate and prepare accordingly. It can be helpful to ask in advance in which language the meeting will be held and whether participants can translate for you.
Meetings start punctually and end relatively punctually. An agenda is often welcome but is not necessarily worked through consistently. You can assume, however, that the topics on the agenda will also be discussed in the meeting, although not always in the intended order.
A certain joy of debate can also be felt in meetings. Depending on the respective style of communication of the nationalities present, things are more or less openly addressed and discussed. In companies with a strong hierarchical structure, it is more likely that the superior will make the final decision, while in flatter structured companies, discussions will be ongoing until an agreement is reached.
If a meeting is held in English or German, you should not consider it an insult or exclusion if two or three Luxembourgers suddenly switch to Luxembourgish or French. Luxembourgers are often not aware of doing this as they are used to constantly switching between languages in their everyday lives. There may be many reasons for this change of language, such as the reference to a matter previously discussed in Luxembourgish. Simply wait for the conversation to end and then ask that what has been said be repeated in English. Do not assume per se that you were intentionally excluded from the conversation. Of course, this can also be the case, as Luxembourgers are well aware that very few foreigners speak their language. Even then you should simply ignore it and not react in an unfriendly way.
Depending on the company’s practice, a summary written protocol may be sent out after a meeting, specifying not only the decisions made but also the next steps for individual departments or persons.
You’ll do well with figures, data and facts at a presentation in Luxembourg as a fact-oriented approach is a rule. Nevertheless, you should not neglect the relationship level by, for example, saying a few friendly words to those present at the beginning, then engaging in some harmless small talk afterwards or being available for questions.
If you give a presentation in English, as a native speaker you should be aware that many of your listeners in the room may speak English quite well but may not be as proficient in technical terms or acronyms. Therefore, speak English in as understandable a manner as possible and do not take it for granted that terms, as well as names and events from the fields of sport or politics, are understood. Ask if all the terms are familiar to your audience or used in the same way on site. As a precaution, include some descriptive words in your presentation.
Basically, you should speak more slowly and clearly than you would in a presentation in your home country. Note that if you don’t take into account the fact that English is a foreign language for many in Luxembourg and is only the fourth language after Luxembourgish, French and German, you will quickly appear unempathetic or arrogant.
It may also be advisable to offer your presentation slides as well as handouts and other accompanying materials in two or three languages unless all participants have a common working language.
Negotiations and decisions
Depending on the hierarchical structure of a company based in Luxembourg, decision-making powers are also distributed. So make sure you are actually negotiating with the right people. However, even if only representatives of the middle level are present without decision-making authority initially, they can still be influential. It can’t hurt to have a good connection to all the people you know in an organization during ongoing negotiations.
There is a tendency to negotiate formally and in detail in Luxembourg, but the relationship aspect also plays a role. Perhaps you should stick to the motto: Tough on the job, soft towards the person. Negotiate respectfully, on an equal level and flexibly. Always keep an eye on which nationalities are sitting at the negotiating table and adjust your communication behaviour accordingly.
With the presence of the EU institutions and the international financial community, you can rest assured that Luxembourg companies will have access to excellent legal advice and will draw up detailed contracts accordingly.
Coordination and collaboration
Luxembourg companies are usually well structured and organized. Following the German model, there are often extensive administrative processes, and following the French model, hierarchies are strongly differentiated.